The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987 Page: 108
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Well researched, cogently written, and amply illustrated, The Great Fa-
ther traces the development of U.S. policy from its colonial precedents
through the 1970s.
For almost a quarter of a century Prucha has devoted his research
and writing to the history of U.S. Indian policy, and much of his earlier
work is incorporated within these volumes. Historians familiar with
Prucha's previous writings will recognize that The Great Father reflects
his perspective: an analysis of Indian policy and its impact upon the
tribes as seen from a bureaucratic or institutional viewpoint. The vol-
umes are especially valuable in their depiction of the interplay of eco-
nomic, political, and religious forces in the formulation and shifts of
federal policy. Prucha aptly portrays the problems faced by mission-
aries, administrators, and Congressional committees in designing and
implementing the government's programs. As he states in the preface,
the volumes contain considerably less about the impact of the govern-
ment's policies within the Indian communities. Although Prucha peri-
odically discusses the plight of the tribespeople, the viewpoint of this
study remains that of the government, not of the reservations.
Unquestionably, the most important single theme that permeates this
work is the close relation between the federal government and the In-
dian communities. Regardless of peace or war, reform or scandal, the
fate of the tribes has increasingly been dominated by policy makers in
Washington. Prucha argues that most federal decisions were based
upon a humanitarian paternalism, that officials attempted to imple-
ment those policies they deemed best for the tribes. He acknowledges
that sometimes such decisions disregarded Indian aspirations and that
sometimes bureaucrats were ignorant of conditions within the Indian
communities, but he asserts that, in general, federal Indian policy was
motivated by high ideals. Some historians probably would disagree, es-
pecially regarding the formulation of policy during the removal pe-
riod, but Prucha's assertions are convincingly stated, especially as they
pertain to the development of policy in the late nineteenth and early
Prucha's final chapters, which focus upon Indian policy in the 196os
and 1970s, will be especially welcome to Indian historians since few
scholars have examined these decades in any detail. His discussion of
recent legislation, such as the Indian Child Welfare Act, summarizes
developments and provides a useful reference for scholars and stu-
dents who are unfamiliar with these statutes. And finally, his maps and
appendices listing federal officials, census materials, and current tribal
entities add other helpful tools to this study. In summary, The Great Fa-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987, periodical, 1986/1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/m1/134/: accessed April 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.